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The Five Worst Gay Charities For Your Dollar

QUEERTY IN-DEPTH — All charities mean well, but many fail to live-up to their lofty missions. Here are the gay community’s worst offenders.

This holiday season’s been haunted by the Ghost of the Economy’s Future, with a steady procession of Very Bad News marching out like an unstoppable phalanx of sad-faced tin soldiers. Yesterday, the Fed effectively cut interest rates to zero percent. Retail prices are in a spiraling free fall. While we’re all vulnerable, charities have been hit particularly hard, whether as a result of donor fraud or the simple fact that charitable giving is the first thing to go in hard times. Is it any wonder that Wayne Besen, of the gay non-profit Truth Wins Out, is sending emails with “Please, Stop the Sky From Falling” in the subject line?

In an effort to help you help struggling but necessary non-profits, Queerty presents its list of the five worst gay charities for your dollar.

The following organizations are ranked the lowest in terms of both organizational efficiency and organizational capacity (see methodology) by Charity Navigator, the well-regarded independent analysis site we’ve used to ensure impartiality. Charity Navigator bases its decisions on the financial data charities are required to give through their IRS-filed 990 forms.

While the site updates monthly, some of this data is a couple of years old. We included it because it’s our belief that if a charity is not filing financial statements in a timely manner, they shouldn’t get a free pass. We chose the five largest, worst-performing gay-focused charities. This means some underperforming HIV/AIDS-related charities, which scored lower than the organizations listed here but were not specifically focused on the gay community, are not on the list.

In all instances we have reached out to the respective groups and asked them for a response and we will update the site as these responses become available.

 
5. Gay Men’s Health Crisis

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The NY-based GMHC began in 1981. Ever since, it’s been dedicated to combating HIV through awareness programs as well as direct aid to those afflicted with HIV, especially through its HIV/AIDS Hotline. While spurned by Larry Kramer, it received lavish praise in Randy Shilts’ 1987 book, And the Band Played On.

This organization’s main problem is not its efficiency. In fact, the group spends nearly 90 percent of its money directly on programs, making it one of the best in the nation. So how did it wind up on the list? Its “organizational capacity” is in the dumps. The GMHC’s revenue grows at a pitiful 0.4 percent, severely hampering its ability to grow its programs. Furthermore, its working capital ratio is dangerously low. If donations dried up, GMHC would have less than three months before it was forced to shut its doors.

Janet Weinberg, Senior Managing Director – Development and Legislative Funding responds:

“Gay Men’s Health Crisis would like to respond to the article, “Five Worst Gay Charities for Your Dollar” which appeared on Wednesday, December 17. The reporter stated the use of data that was “a couple of years old” from Charity Navigator. We were not given sufficient time to respond appropriately to the reporter as the email was sent after standard business hours, and we were alerted of the post the next morning.

GMHC is in full compliance with IRS regulations for filing Form 990 – Return of Organizations Exempt From Income Tax. A request for extension to file the 2007 report, which covers GMHC’s fiscal year ended June 30th 2008, was filed with the IRS in October, and extends the filing deadline to February 15th 2009.
A review of GMHC’s Form 990 will show that revenues have grown steadily over the last five years by 30 percent. Consolidated revenues for fiscal years 2008 and 2004 were $31 million and $23.7 million respectively. Audited results at June 30, 2008 show working capital $10 million, and cash $8 million.
The article stated that GMHC was ranked by two criteria: (1) Efficiency—of which we received four stars from 2006 and credited as “one of the best in the nation;” and (2) Capacity of which we received two stars from 2006. Yet, the melodramatic focus of the article leaned more to the alleged “failure” of our capacity rather than the success of our efficiency. Our organizational capacity has a ½ year of reserve. This is not a failure.

Lastly, the article stated that if “donations dried up,” GMHC would have to shut its doors in less than three months. This is a misrepresentation of the agency’s financial position with only 18% of the budget consisting of contributions. GMHC has a well diversified portfolio which means that cash is not generated from only one source. It would take a large national disaster for all sources to dry up.

During this time of recession, it is not helpful for queerty.com to bash community-based organizations that provide services to LGBT folks and people living with HIV/AIDS—especially since the article was not evidenced-based on the latest data. “

 
4. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation

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Billing itself as the gay movement’s “premiere think tank”, NGLTF, founded in 1973, is in the business of training local, state and national activists and giving them the resources and information needed to promote equality and fairness measures.

NGLTF’s big problem is that it’s bloated with administrative expenses. Only a little more than half of the money raised is actually used to fund the organization’s programs. Out of the $7.3 million NGLTF spends annually, nearly $3.8 million is sucked up in red tape and bureaucracy. That said, its fundraising efforts are largely effective and efficient, and the Foundation’s revenues grow at a healthy 35 percent. But that money is being sucked up in administration; program expenses are only growing at 3.3 percent.

Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force responds:

“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force builds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political power from the ground up. For 35 years, we have led the fight for freedom, justice and equality for LGBT people. The Task Force monitors and works to reduce all non-programmatic costs so that we can carry out our work efficiently and effectively. We continue to be an organization that accomplishes an astonishing number of concrete advances for our community, given our relatively limited resources. While our rating on Charity Navigator appears to be lower than some other colleague organizations, we believe this has to do with the method of expense allocation used by different organizations. The rating system doesn’t take into account these nuances, meaning a full picture of an organization’s stability and effectiveness is not presented.”

 
3. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center

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There is only one reason New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center is on this list, but it’s a biggie: Put simply, the Center is obsessed with fundraising, but horrible at doing it effectively. For instance, for every dollar you give to the center, a quarter will be spent on getting new donations. Whether it’s through lavish charity events or promotional materials, the Center is so focused on getting more money that it’s not wisely spending the funds it has. Currently, the LGBTCC has spent so much on fundraising that it’s running a deficit. Our suggestion: Start saving some of that cash. The Center has less than three months’ worth of operating costs stored in the bank, and considering the breadth of services it offers, living from hand to mouth is a dangerous strategy.

UPDATED:Cathy Renna, Managing Partner of Renna Communications responds:

The Center has received a good rating with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) which publishes reviews of all the major lgbt organizations each year. I would suggest you look at the MAP reviews online to compare.Historically, the Center has been well-rated by the Better Business Bureau as well.

Charities Navigator evaluates charities on two primary factors; their financial health and their utilization of capacity.

There are several problems with the way they calculate data:

1) They produce financial information based off the charities form 990, which although is a snapshot of the organization, is not considered a substitute for the annual audited financial statements. Any financial analyst would be able to obtain more useful information from an audited financial statement because f/s are prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), which tell the reader a lot more information than a summarized tax filing.

2) For example, the financial statements reflect a deficit of approximately $361K. What the audit reflects, however is that depreciation expense for the year was $391K. Since depreciation is a non-cash item, it reduces the surplus but does not require a cash outlay. Therefore, as note 11 to the audited financial statements point out, without this accounting entry to comply with GAAP, the Center would have had a surplus of approximately 29K.

3) In addition, the balance sheet or statement of financial position reflects, and is supported by footnotes 6 and 7, the Center owns a building that had an initial cost of $13.6 Million but only has a mortgage of $1.5 Million. This highlights the effectiveness of prior capital campaigns and speaks to the efficiency of the Center on a long term basis, not just over one year. In addition, the space (and Richard can give you the history of that, which is pretty interesting in and of itself), gives the Center the ability to provide usable space to many user groups that are directly related to the Center’s mission. Because the user groups are not direct programs of the Center, they do not appear as expenses on their books, financial statements or form 990. Therefore the Charity Navigator measurement of efficient use of resources is grossly misleading.

4) The Center has temporarily restricted net assets of approximately $725K. What is not apparent on a form 990, but is explained as part of the footnotes of an audited financial statement is that this $725K represents donations from the public (foundations, etc. ) that are designated for specific programs that will take place in the future. Therefore, the Center has a strong base of future support. (What this also means is when the Center spends this money in the future, it will be applied against this net asset balance and not future revenue streams, which in this uncertain economic climate is a very positive development.)

5) The audited financial statements contain a statement of cash flows, which a form 990 does not. The statement of cash flows reflects that the Center had a positive cash flow of $240K in the 6-30-07 fiscal year.

I hope this was helpful. We certainly do not agree that the Center merits this kind of criticism and is in fact a very good place for our community to donate their resources as they see fit.

 
2. Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center

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There’s little positive to say about Ferndale Michigan’s Affirmations Community Center, which serves the Detroit area. A full 39 cents of every dollar you give will wind up going to fund other fundraisers, making it the worst gay charity by this measure. In addition, Affirmations is bleeding cash at an alarming 9.3 percent a year, making CEO Leslie Ann Thompson’s salary of $99,317 totally unwarranted. It may not seem like much, but it’s a whopping seven percent of the annual budget. She should be fired. Hopefully new leadership will turn this floundering center around.

Leslie Ann Thompson, CEO of Affirmations, responds:

As Matt Foreman wrote, “Charity Navigator and similar groups rely on an organization’s tax returns (“990’s”) to do their analyses.” The viewpoint posted here on Queer TY is based only on the current year and does not look at the historical or current context in which the organization is growing.

In 2006, Affirmations ranked with 3 stars and scored an overall rating of 55.95 – that would have placed it in “The 5 Best Gay Charities” if scored in 2007. In 2007, Affirmations was deeply involved in completing a $5.3 million capital campaign to build a new home that would dramatically expand programs and services to the immediate LGBT Detroit-area community. When capital campaigns are launched, there is no separate nonprofit set up to raise the money for that goal. All fundraising activities and expenses come right out of that same nonprofit’s accounts and they show up on the annual 990.

In January of 2007, Affirmations still lived in a run-down 100-year-old apartment building. By the end of the year, Affirmations had moved to a new LEED-certified, award-winning building and doubled the number of people served almost overnight. The campaign that made that goal a reality cost money.

Not only is it typical and expected to have an increase in fundraising expenses in order to accomplish such an enormous task, it also poses additional challenges: individual donors who give to a capital campaign may feel stretched in their giving and may not be able to continue giving to an organization’s annual operating budget – the part that keeps the doors open and the programs and services growing. In order to successfully complete a capital campaign and continue to run a one million dollar budget means additional resources are spent in fundraising.

A useful evaluation of our LGBT organizations should consider all the factors that are involved in an organization’s work that includes not just the 990 but also monumental successes and dramatic increases in service.

And the worst gay charity for your dollar?

 
1. The New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project

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While nobody can question the mission of the Project or its 24-hour, Spanish/English bilingual hotline, there’s nothing good to say about the way it’s run. Seven out of 10 charities spend more than 75 percent of their budget on program expenses. The Project spends a measly 56.6 percent. The rest of the money goes to a bloated administration and fundraising. A look at the Project’s operating expenses is a look at an organization in its death throes. The group runs a 10 percent deficit and has virtually nothing saved for a rainy day. Without constant donations, this charity would be forced to shut down within six weeks. In such a dreary position, Executive Director Clarence Patton shouldn’t just have his $102,356 salary yanked; he should also be fired.

UPDATE: And Patton stepped down in July.

Sharon Stapel, Executive Director of The Anti-Violence Project responds:

The Anti-Violence Project has always focused on providing necessary direct services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected victims of hate violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. AVP is disappointed that Queerty did not call us directly prior to running this story, but instead sent an e-mail to our website general administrator after 5:00 p.m. last night. Had we had an opportunity to talk with Queerty, we would have explained to them that their information is no longer current and that AVP brought in a new director of development, Joseph Barretto, in May 2008 and a new executive director, Sharon Stapel, in July 2008. Since then, AVP has bolstered regular practices that will assure accurate reporting of our financial information and the fiscal health of the organization. As well, in FY09 we overhauled our finance department and brought in a fiscal management consultant that specializes in working with non-profit organizations to create a transparent, clear and accurate picture of our fiscal management and health. Although it is true that AVP, like many other not-for-profits in the current climate, is facing tough economic times, we have taken preventative steps in preparing for the rest of FY09 and beyond including reducing expenses and budgeting for a reserve. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with Queerty and to have a more thorough dialog about AVP and the critical work we do. It was a pleasure to meet Queerty’s David Hauslaib in October 2008 at our Courage Awards where he presented an award; at that time we expressed our desire to meet with him and Queerty and we continue to hope that we can do so.

We’re sorry we didn’t have a chance to talk to AVP sooner as well. We used the AVP’s listed press contact to get in touch, which so happened to be the general administration email. It’s encouraging that AVP has begun to address the many fiscal problems it faces and when it releases its finances next year, we look forward to reassessing the organization.

  • 61 Comments
    • Christian
      Christian

      A couple of things:

      I used to be a fundraiser for the Task Force. Rea is 100% correct in saying that the Task Force’s system of allocating expense is more honest than most of other nonprofits. To break it down, many nonprofits (gay and otherwise) claim a portion of their special events and direct mail program as a “program” expense. This lowers their overall development and administrative expense. Groups like the Task Force who don’t claim that their fundraising dinners are part of their programmatic work get unfairly slammed for higher fundraising expenses.

      Clarence Patton left AVP about a year ago.

      Finally, based on the kind of work they do, and their fundraising base, nonprofits have different overhead costs and efficiencies built in. For example, advocacy organizations typically have higher fundraising costs than health organizations, primarily due to the latter groups receiving gov’t money.

      So, while Charity Navigator and other evaluators are useful as a snapshot, I would argue that effectiveness trump efficiency – so organizations that are successful in winning civil rights victories, delivering vital services, etc. are more important than what percentage they spend on fundraising or overhead. (Within reason, of course.)

      Dec 17, 2008 at 8:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • damascene
      damascene

      How you can choose HRC which is one of the least effective the Center which is one of most effective is beyond me? Has HRC ever accomplished anything in its mission statement?

      Dec 17, 2008 at 9:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anthony in Nashville
      Anthony in Nashville

      Kudos for a very informative article. I’m looking forward to more of this kind of original content.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 9:19 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John
      John

      Geez.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 9:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CommentDouble
      CommentDouble

      “So, while Charity Navigator and other evaluators are useful as a snapshot, I would argue that effectiveness trump efficiency – so organizations that are successful in winning civil rights victories, delivering vital services, etc. are more important than what percentage they spend on fundraising or overhead. (Within reason, of course.)”

      Exactly. Failpost Queerty.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 9:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Joe Moag
      Joe Moag

      “All charities mean well, but many fail to live-up to their lofty missions.”

      That’s the opening line of this post, yet the post goes on to give no indications of whether or not these organizations do, in fact, live-up to their lofty missions. Financial ratios do not and cannot assess that, in and of themselves.

      Evaluating stated goals of mission and program, then seeing whether or not these goals are met, is the way to evaluate organizational effectiveness first. Then, I suppose, one could construct a “ROI” measure that compares org A to org B in terms of units served/dollar spent on service. For instance, A served 100 dinners to the homeless at a cost of $2/head, while B served 100 dinners to the homeless at a cost of $3/head. A is more effective than B in delivering its mission. However, this is not a financial ratio; this is a combo ROI ratio, part programming part financial.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 9:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eric Jost
      Eric Jost

      Why I applaud your efforts to highlight the discrepancies in spending practices by these organizations, I think using ratings based solely on numbers is a little misleading.

      Of course nonprofits should not have the freedom to spend their money in any way they see fit, but compiling a list of LGBTQ organizations that we “shouldn’t” donate to doesn’t seem to be the most productive use of time.

      As Damascene pointed out, HRC might be incredibly effective in organizing, but they are also overtly racist, transphobic, and sex negative. NGLTF, however, has emphasized an inclusive public policy approach and focuses on issues — such as transgender and sex worker rights — that many other LGBTQ orgs refuse to touch.

      The GMHC is the American leader in LGBTQ sexual and reproductive health promotion; and looking at the numbers of all HIV/AIDS organizations across the country, there is almost a universal decline in the amount of money coming in.

      Similarly, the AVP is one of the few LGBTQ orgs actually addressing queer anti-violence issues, at a time when safe havens for battered women often do not admit lesbians, gay men, and/or sex workers.

      Again, I want to reiterate that I agree these organizations should go through a massive administrative overhaul, but can we risk their closure by encouraging people to withhold their donations?

      Dec 17, 2008 at 9:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sean
      Sean

      I thinnk this is a great article to have out there. We need to have this discussed even if their are disputes on the placement of organizations. It’s another way of holding leaders accountable and trying to hone a consistent mission for teh gay community and their dollars.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 10:09 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alexa
      Alexa

      Certainly, this is useful information, but saying these charities don’t deserve our money is pretty low.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 10:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • at work today
      at work today

      Unfair critique of GMHC. As I read this article, it states that GMHC is among the best in the nation, but if donations dried up they would have to shut down. Therefore you should help donations dry up and help close one of the best ASOs in the country by withholding your contributions. How does this make any sense? If GMHC is indeed among the best in the nation, everyone should be encouraged to donate enthusiastically.

      Truth is (and this was discussed in another post), they don’t have an endowment due to the fact that they believe they must use every available penny to fight the fight against AIDS.

      And by the way, if donations dried up at ANY non-profit, they would have to shut down. That’s the way it works.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 10:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • alan brickman
      alan brickman

      What a coincidence that all the charities involving women have the worst reccomedations..they should just go back to robbing breast cancer charities…

      Dec 17, 2008 at 11:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John
      John

      @at work today:

      “And by the way, if donations dried up at ANY non-profit, they would have to shut down. That’s the way it works.”

      When you say donations, are you including restricted and non restricted funding??? Because they are no donations on a profit and loss/income statement.

      I’m currently working with a Charity that has a cash surplus of $300,000 K in the bank….if they lost donations, they would still survive.

      Charities need to STOP resting on their laurels! It makes me so mad. This is why so many of them are ALWAYS asking for money, thus putting people off from donating as they want to see were their money is going etc..

      This is good.

      I WANT to know how my money is being spent and how effective it is. There is nothing worse then saving a charity because it may close down in a few months and then have the money go down a frigging hole! It defeats the purpose and you are in fact not really and truly helping the charity. All you are doing is helping yourself to feel better as a ‘giver of charity’, so one can sleep well at night.

      Companies, people etc should never stop progressing and developing to meet it’s aims and objectives.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 11:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John
      John

      @Alexa:

      Have you heard the saying that you shouldn’t put gas in an engine that isn’t working..?

      It’s not being mean. It’s been productive.

      Look at what happened with prop 8?? Complacency sucks. Esp when you are dealing with public bodies!?? It should NEVER happen.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 11:09 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JASPER flat
      JASPER flat

      HRC is dead but it seems they don’t know it. Anyone remember their work on Prop 8? No, me neither.

      HRC is a zombie. Don’t feed it, it’ll come back for more. [And still do nothing for us.]

      Dec 17, 2008 at 11:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • at work today
      at work today

      @John:

      But the $300K would run out at some point and you would need further donations to remain open.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 11:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jesus Mary
      Jesus Mary

      Hey queerty, do me a favor and look at your site on Safari. Me thinks 36 hours of un-fixed broken html is enough already. Its starting to look like Kruezer at night here.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dan
      Dan

      You left HRC off of this list and you expect to have any credibility?

      Morons…

      Dec 17, 2008 at 12:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dan
      Dan

      Hate to break it to ya, Jesus, but it looks broken in any browser.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 12:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GDW
      GDW

      The information in this article is pretty suspect. For example, it says that Leslie Ann Thompson, CEO of Affirmations, has been fired. This is not true. Would love to know where they got that information. At 9 years serving as the head of Affirmations, Ms. Thompson has lead the organization through it’s most difficult period, growing its budget from less than $300,000 to over $1 million.

      Seems like someone either has an agenda or is woefully misinformed.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 1:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Former Affirmations Member
      Former Affirmations Member

      Thanks for shedding light on the financial shenanigans at Affirmations. Leslie Thompson has not actually been fired, but may get a raise to more than $100,000 in 2009.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Japhy Grant
      Japhy Grant

      @GDW: We used the org’s website: http://www.goaffirmations.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_board

      If you have a better source, let me know.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Former Affirmations Employee
      Former Affirmations Employee

      The fact that Affirmations is poor at money management shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the organization. After all, Leslie Thompson’s degree is in Physical Education (surprise), not business. What’s more, ask any employee, current or former, if they feel that their job is secure, and they will most certainly say no. One year ago, four full time staff members were terminated without warning, the remaining staff took a 10% pay cut, and the organization defaulted on paying their employees’ health benefits. Their has been turmoil among the staff since.

      All non-profits are struggling in our current economy; that’s no surprise, but the average full time employee at affirmations makes between $30k and $35k a year, while their CEO takes home nearly $100k. That’s simply not ok.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Apple
      Apple

      Leslie Thompson of Affirmations is still in Power at Affirmations, she has yet to be be fired.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Apple
      Apple

      http://www.goaffirmations.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_staff

      Also note Affirmations works in a hierarchical system. If your part time your considered worthless, or a nobody. If your a coordinator, you are undervalued and unappreciated, if you are a director, you have the bulk of the work, but there are pay disparities between directors. If you are the CAO you are running the show, if you are the CEO, your collecting a nice check, and smiling.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • J
    • Apple
      Apple

      http://www.goaffirmations.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_staff

      Also note Affirmations works in a hierarchical system. If your part time your considered worthless, or a nobody. If your a coordinator, you are undervalued and unappreciated. Managers dont manage anything but do as much work as a coordinator but are paid more, if you are a director, you have the bulk of the work, but there are pay disparities between directors. If you are the CAO you are running the show, if you are the CEO, your collecting a nice check, and smiling.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dorothy
      dorothy

      @Japhy Grant: look here http://www.goaffirmations.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_staff she is a part of the staff, not board of Affirmations

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Japhy Grant
      Japhy Grant

      Thanks for the correction on Affirmations, everyone. Much appreciated. Article updated to reflect.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GDW
      GDW

      @Japhy Grant:

      Japhy, there’s nothing on the website you referenced to indicate that she’s been fired. What made you include that in your original version of the article? Seems like you owe your readers and Leslie Thompson an apology for not checking your facts before publishing something that has no basis in fact.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Joe Moag
      Joe Moag

      @GDW: It appears that Japhy checked the Board listing, not staff listing, to see who was and was not running the place. Presidents/Executive Directors are part of the management team at NFPs, so, therefore, are listed as staff, not board.

      He corrected it.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • J
      J

      Everyone look at GDW’s initials, then take a look at the board members’ names again. I’m guessing someone doesn’t have enough to worry about with running the organization that they have time to craft poorly-worded comments on a widely-read blog.

      The only thing more disappointing than Leslie Thompson’s mishandling of Affirmations’ finances is a board that’s too incompetent to know when to get rid of her.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 2:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Matt Foreman
      Matt Foreman

      Charity Navigator and similar groups rely on organization’s tax returns (“990’s”) to do their analyses. This would be fine and good if 990’s could be used for apples-to-apples comparison. They can’t and the Task Force is a good example of why. Accounting “rules” governing how organizations can allocate expenses between fundraising, program and administration are, in fact, incredibly flexible. The Task Force has been using the most conservative allocation method in the movement – in other words, figures weren’t cooked to look better. From Charity Navigator and others people (like our friends at Queery) could perceive that we were spending a disproportionate amount of money to raise money or on management. That is neither accurate nor fair.

      Here are some allocation issues embedded in our 2007 numbers:

      • We did not allocate any of the expenses associated with our fundraising dinners to program activities. (Some organizations allocate a significant portion of dinner and event expenses to program on grounds that the content of speeches and other presentations during the event pertain to the organization’s programmatic work.)

      • We did not allocate any expenses associated with our direct mail or telemarketing activities to program. (Other organizations allocate anywhere from 40% to 90% of direct mail and telemarketing expenses to program.)

      • We did not allocate any portion of the salaries of any staff member who works in the fundraising department to program. (Some organizations allocate a portion of these staff salaries to program on grounds that a portion of the work being done involves or enables informing donors and other contacts about the organization’s program work.)

      • We did not allocate any rent, telephone or IT expenses to program. (Some organizations allocate a large portion of these expenses to program on the grounds that program staff occupy space, talk on the phone, etc.)

      I could go on and on.

      Other factors also make some groups look better than others. For example, organizations that rely on a few foundations and government contracts for the bulk of their income have much lower fundraising costs than organizations – like the Task Force – that raise a significant portion of their income from individuals or events – which are dollar-for-dollar raised inherently much more costly.

      I was hoping movement organizations would come together and agree on a standard procedure for allocating and reporting expenses. That never happened.

      The best way to evaluate the effectiveness of an organization is to look at what it concretely delivers to our community. On that score – and I’m partial, of course – the Task Force shines.

      Matt Foreman
      Task Force Executive Director 2003-2008

      Dec 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • at work today
      at work today

      @Japhy Grant:

      Gee, how about interviews, site visits, annual reports, financial audits, client testimonials?

      Dec 17, 2008 at 3:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JK
      JK

      I note that the original post mentions the author reached out to the charities listed here. However, it seems from the response these charities gave, that was a half-hearted outreach. I would have thought the blog writers at Queerty would be connected enough to LGBT nonprofits to contact them but clearly I was wrong (if they aren’t that connected, one also has to wonder why we care about their opinion about ANY gay-related issue). I strongly suggest that next time Queerty does its due diligence and not engage in sensationalist writing at the expense of the nonprofits that serve our community (especially at one of the most difficult economic crises in recent memory).

      Dec 17, 2008 at 3:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AL
      AL

      @JK: I completely agree with you, JK. Given that much of the content on Queerty is superficial at best, it is suspect that they choose this time of the year, and this year to boot, to sling arrows at LGBT non-profits of all places. Given that many members of our community desparately need the services that places like the Center and GMHC provide, and that those who need these services most are rarely in a position to be able to contribute to these organizations’ livelihood through substantive donations, it hardly seems like a worthy endeavor to direct such unbalanced criticism at the charities. Plus, as we are seeing from the responses to the initial posts as well as from some of the comments, basing this “contest” on Charity Navigator, without speaking to the non-profits themselves, is irresponsible and, frankly, irrelevant.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MG
      MG

      We all know the only thing QUEERTY is good for is their “Morning Goods” – sending me pictures of hot semi-naked boys every morning. And, in all honesty, is anyone going to believe that a blog that sends out hot semi-naked boys every morning, entitled “Morning Goods”, has legit information?!?!!?

      Dec 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hal
      hal

      Kramer didn’t spurn the GMHC. They threw him out after he insisted on focusing on gay sex as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS. He was ousted because he was deemed alarmist and over the top, but in the end, was dead on about the coming epidemic.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 3:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tim in SF
      Tim in SF

      Why is HRC not on this list? The omission is mind-boggling. They endorsed Joe Fucking Lieberman in his 2006 primary against progressive Ned Lamont! FUCK HRC. I can’t BELIEVE you would leave them off this list! I am STUNNED!

      Dec 17, 2008 at 4:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavidOnTheMedia
      DavidOnTheMedia

      Japh,

      Thanks for this update. Would you consider writing and article on the 5 best gay charities to give money to?

      Dec 17, 2008 at 5:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • David O
      David O

      At this critical time of year for ALL charities, not least the gay ones, it’s very irresponsible of Queerty to use flawed data to basically try to swing its readers away from giving to really important charities. By making sweeping generalizations and not understanding how money in 501(c)3’s is allocated, Queerty has virtually challenged its readers to shut down some of the organizations it says are low on funds by not giving to them. Disappointing and mean spirited.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 5:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavidOnTheMedia
      DavidOnTheMedia

      JK, Thx for both! ;)

      Dec 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CommentDouble
      CommentDouble

      As I said and predicted by the 5th comment.

      Failpost Queerty.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shari Ilsen
      Shari Ilsen

      Thanks for this post! To research charities and their effectiveness, there’s also http://www.greatnonprofits.org/ where you can read reviews of nonprofits. The reviews are written by people with first-hand experience with the nonprofit – their clients, volunteers, board members, donors.
      ~Shari Ilsen
      Outreach Director
      GreatNonprofits

      Dec 17, 2008 at 6:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Nancy Meyer
      Nancy Meyer

      @DavidOnTheMedia:
      I agree – I have no idea which are the best organizations, and I though the Human Rights Commission was good – someone please respond and let me know where to send my money to help the fight for equal rights for all.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 8:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • WileyOne
      WileyOne

      This article and it’s companion piece are simply lazy, amateurish journalism. Both articles make broad generalizations regarding the effectiveness and worthiness of the organizations from ratings based solely on their financial performance. While this is certainly an important aspect to consider, it’s hardly the only one. Other measures may be more subjective, but are more likely more meaningful too.

      I appreciate that Queerty and Japhy are trying to create more original LGBT content, but frankly this is a really bad start.

      Dec 17, 2008 at 11:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dave
      Dave

      All in all kudos to the smart and well written responses by the representatives of the aforementioned organizations (which as of this post pertains to #s4-1). The articulation of your responses to this does far more to build confidence then a ranking would then again some of your responses made me happy in my head in a pants kind of way ;)

      Dec 18, 2008 at 1:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • michael prebner
      michael prebner

      @WileyOne: readers like you are, frankly, the worst part of this site. do you have ANY idea what this post was about? it wasn’t about whether charities support a good cause, or whether an AIDS charity will actually cure the disease. it was about whether you, as somebody who donates money to a charity, get a good return on investment, or whether your charity is putting a huge chunk of every dollar you donate into black tie events and aeron chairs instead of back into their cause.

      how do you not see the usefulness of a post like this? japhy told you that if you are going to donate to these charities, then expect that much of your donation will NOT end up in the hands of the needy, but rather go to bloated overhead costs.

      i, quite frankly, am greatful for a post like this. it doesn’t try to tell me which charities support better causes, but rather which charities will take better care of every penny i give them.

      Dec 18, 2008 at 1:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • scott
      scott

      I’m glad that this was posted. I think posts like these should remain at the top and not be buried in a few days.

      There are different criteria to look at when deciding on who to give $$$ to. And if not for nothing the dialogue that has ensued from this post is great. It’s informative to all.

      Next interesting/helpful post: Where LGBT peeps should go on vacation or not? Or top 10 pro-LGBT/con-LGBT vacation destinations. I’ve pretty much banned the Caribbean (definitely Jamaica).

      Dec 18, 2008 at 8:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andy
      Andy

      I find it appallingly retrogressive that GMHC is grouped with and compared against “gay charities” in this assessment when it is primarily an HIV/AIDS organization. I’d be interested in seeing it compared to its HIV/AIDS peers.

      Dec 18, 2008 at 10:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Still Donating to Affirmations
      Still Donating to Affirmations

      No organization is ever perfect. Despite the fact that Ms. Thompson is overpaid, Affirmations provides highly needed programs for the more downtrodden in our community. The point of the community center is just this; we who can afford to donate resources do so to better and enrich the lives of others in our community. If we don’t pony up, who the hell will?

      I sleep better at night knowing that the staff at Affirmations are helping to take care of those who can’t help themselves. As the economy worsens, and as large corporation donations are surely going to decrease, the community needs to rally around our community center now more than ever.

      I contribute to and will continue to support Affirmations. Even though Ms. Thompson takes too much off the top, it’s not worth pulling desperately needed donations at the cost of programs for transgendered youth, HIV testing, and addiction recovery. Why undermine a community center because the CEO makes too much? Isn’t it more important to keep people sane, healthy and whole?

      Dec 18, 2008 at 10:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • notke
      notke

      I work in the philanthropic sector. We do not take these ratings seriously at all… in fact, they don’t even factor into our decisions when we vet grants. The reason why? What constitutes ‘effectiveness’ is far more complicated than can be summed up by a math statement based on what meager facts CBO’s are mandated to provide. That’s all that Charity Navigator does.

      This is why I agree with other comments that say this post does a larger disservice than it helps at all.

      If no one in the professional philanthropic world thinks Charity Navigator is worth a damn for making funding decisions, it’s a pretty good sign that individuals shouldn’t rely on them either.

      How should you decide? Look at the RESULTS the CBO gets. That takes some time and effort, can’t be turned into a math problem, or described in a facile blog post.

      Dec 19, 2008 at 5:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RomanHans
      RomanHans

      So, GLAAD isn’t a charity?

      Dec 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Geo Vaughn
      Geo Vaughn

      HOW DARE YOU PUT OUT A BLOG ENTRY WITH THIS NEGATIVE INFORMATION?

      THIS PAST AUGUST, I WAS GAY BASHED IN THE STREETS OF CHELSEA (NYC).

      IT WAS THE AVP WHO STEPPED UP TO THE PLATE IN ASSISTING ME WITH MEDICAL BILLS, FREE COUNSELING, AND THEY WERE THE MAJOR SPONSORS OF THE “RALLY AGAINST HATE CRIME & VOILENCE” THAT WE PUT TOGETHER @ CITY HALL ON SEPT. 13TH.

      WITH MY PERMISSION, THEY STEPPED INTO ARENA FULL FORCE BY CONTACTING THE D.A. IN CHARGE OF MY CASE AND DEMANDING EQUAL PROTECTION, AND JUSTICE IN MY CASE.

      IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE AVP, I WOULD STILL BE LOST IN THE AFTERMATH OF WHAT HAPPENED TO ME.

      THIS ARTICLE IS DISTASTEFUL, FULL OF INCORRECT INFORMATION, AND CLEARLY A PUBLICITY STUNT GONE WRONG ON BEHALF OF YOUR WEBSITE. I BELIEVE YOUR “REPORTER” JAPHY GRANT) DELIBERATELY SENT OUT THOSE EMAILS, SOME TO THE “WRONG” ADDRESS, AND WITHIN SUCH AN AWFUL TIME FRAME, SO THAT HE/SHE COULD POST THE INFORMATION WITHOUT HAVING TO FACT CHECK OR CORRECT HIS/HER PRE-PUBLISHED ARTICLE.

      I ENCOURAGE POTENTIAL DONORS TO IGNORE THE CLAIMS BROUGHT ON BY THIS SAD ATTEMPT AT “GROUND BREAKING JOURNALISM”, AND INSTEAD FOCUS WHAT THESE ORGANIZATIONS REALLY PROVIDE OUR COMMUNITY.

      … READING THIS WAS LIKE BEING BASHED ALL OVER AGAIN… THIS TIME IT WAS MY HERO WHO GOT THE PUNCHES

      -GEO VAUGHN

      Dec 23, 2008 at 11:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • harold grombelski
      harold grombelski

      Affirmations staff, members and friends raised about $1200.00 recently with the sale of holiday cookies during the ice sculture exibit.The center toke the championship award of all the businesses and groups involed in “The Warm Hearted Cookie Challenge.” People united for a common goal can accomplish MIRCLES! It simply takes a change of attitude. Sometimes it takes hidding bottom! before people wakeup! Together,we can overcome these set backs, by seeing things as they really are. Knowing all that has happen, thanks for this eyeopening report.We as a group, can turn this around and correct all or some of the mistakes of the past. So hear this clear and loud,WE ARE CHANGING OUR MINDS AND HEARTS FOR SOMETHING NEW AND BETTER! Afterall,the NEW term for 2009 is “CHANGE”

      Dec 27, 2008 at 4:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tonyo718
      Tonyo718

      Dear Editors:

      I would be remiss if I did not respond to the recent publicity generated from the Queerty piece on supposedly poor performing LGBT charities, encouraging the public not to donate to them (“The Five Worst Gay Charities For Your Dollar,” Dec. 17, 2008). I believe this piece not only did a disservice to the queer donating public, but is a potentially immoral action, in that it could contribute to factors which could put one or more of these much needed agencies out of business.

      I have had, in my “out” life, the true pleasure of working along side of, and in some cases, receiving services from, ALL of the named agencies. GMHC has provided invaluable assistance to the LGBT Latino/a community in New York City, and was always there for the various LGBT actions and coalition needs when requested. I was proud to work side by side with the staff of The Task Force taking the lead on the Save Dade project in Miami some years ago, an action without which the Florida county would have lost their non-discrimination protection for certain. I witnessed daily the many people from all over the New York City area making use of programming and support groups at the LGBT Community Center there in the village. Further, I know many of those attending there had to have a place in the “gayborhood” because they could not be seen going to centers in the outer boroughs. While we are trying hard to build an urban community center in the city of Detroit, Affirmations has provided tremendous help as a mentoring agency to that end, and in the meantime, is the only place some youth (including Black and Latino youth) can go to hang out and be themselves. Finally, the Anti-Violence Project saved my life in 2000, when I had become the victim of violence in the Bronx.

      Can you put a price on that, Queerty editors?

      I am very proud to be able to list former and current directors Richard Haymes, Clarence Patton, Leslie Ann Thompson, Ana Oliveira, Matt Foreman, and Richard Burns among my friends in my struggle for equality. These people do not sit at a keyboard and postulate about how things ought to be all day long, but push up their sleeves, get in the trenches and work hard to make them change, all the while getting relatively little compensation, compared to what they would make in the for-profit world at the same level, and we should be thanking God for them, not challenging them.

      But thank you for motivating me to donate to all five organizations. I have not done so in a while, but will remember them all on my next payday!

      Sincerely,

      Tony O’Rourke-Quintana

      Board of Directors / Volunteer Coordinator – Karibu House, Detroit

      Dec 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tonyo718
      Tonyo718

      Oh, and Apple (comment #26 – who is likely a disgruntled former Affirmations employee), touchy feely, bottom-up-decision-making orgs that don’t press their staff for outcomes don’t last!!!

      Dec 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike Janarch
      Mike Janarch

      I have worked in the non-profit sector for 40 years. There are a lot of organizations in this part of the economy that could go out of business and not cause much of a ripple in their departure. Their balance sheet might not be the vital clue to their irrelevance.

      Donors who want to give well should give where they can observe what an organization is doing. GMHC is well known, but at a distance of 1500 miles I have no idea whether they are effective or not.

      Consider “the sundown method” of sorting organizations: After a certain number of years (say, 15) non-profits born in crisis or out of a need for urgent change should GO OUT OF BUSINESS. Cause-related organizations tend to do their best work in the first 5 to 10 years of their existence. After that they tend to become less and less imaginative, innovative, effective, flexible, creative. What they get good at later on is staying in business. They become institutionalized. They usually continue to do some good, but if social change is what you want, look elsewhere.

      Look for organizations that have fresh ideas, fresh blood, new approaches, new staff, new boards, new people. The risks are higher when you support new organizations, maybe, but there also risks in supporting the same old hacks doing the same old thing over and over again.

      If you can’t find an organization that is doing something useful, consider making a donation to individuals who you know are doing good work.

      Jan 10, 2009 at 4:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Javier
      Javier

      Dude, Geo Vaughn (COmmentor # 53) is a pathological liar who now may have been lying baout getting gay bashed. Every other week something seems to happen to this kid – he gets gay bashed, his place gets robbed, the laatest is he was held by gunpoint two weeks ago. Get the fuk outta here. Oh yeah and add our youth oprganization to that list. t hats anmothe rone he works with that they pocket th emoney.

      Jan 11, 2009 at 4:15 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Aff Lover
      Aff Lover

      So I am a HUGE advocate of freedom of the press. Yet, I am very disgusted with this article. If you, the author, was unsatisfied with the mission of an organization- start the mud slinging. If you the author, thought the programs and services of an organization were inadequate and unnecessary, attack away. But, if you the author, are merely disagreeing with the spending of a an organizations funds, I find your article very distasteful.

      In these very hard economic times, EVERYONE is feeling the blow, and non-profit orgs are no exception. The funds acquired around the time of the release of this article are essential to the financial health of an organizations upcoming year. Right now, we should all be coming together to make sure the few resources that we have as an LGBT and Allied community survive. Imagine if this article had a larger impact than it did.

      Donations plummet, Affirmations closes.

      Are you proud?

      Jan 12, 2009 at 4:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GeoVaughn.com
      GeoVaughn.com

      Javier, #58

      You are more than welcome to see police reports, speak to the individuals who were arrested, and have issued written confession, and you are invited to the trials… If you STILL don’t believe, then you’re an idiot.

      P.S.

      I’ve identified myself (because I’ve got NOTHING to hide), please do the same.

      Dec 6, 2009 at 7:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • fockinmeen
      fockinmeen

      Here is the answer to EVERYONE’S question about why HRC is not on the list:

      Charity Navigator considers it a LOBBYING organization and not a CHARITABLE organization. CN does not rate lobbyists.

      Frankly, I don’t think HRC does either of these things; however, the arrogant, infused w/celebrititous, egregiously overpaid director, Joe Solmonese, does suck Obama’ dick (politically, if not also physically).

      May 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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